In 2020, the Munich Security Conference introduced the term westlessness to describe the world becoming less western. In the Horizons, we describe how westlessness is on the rise, with support for the West from other countries declining and the West itself becoming more divided.
A growing number of countries – even traditional US allies such as Japan or Saudi Arabia – are seeking closer ties with both Russia and China. Japan, for instance, increased its purchases of Russian natural gas last year. Saudi Arabia meanwhile, joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a “dialogue partner” last March. The SCO – led by China and Russia – was established in 2001 to promote political, economic, and security cooperation in the Eurasia region. Moreover, several heads of state (e.g. Macron from France, Lula from Brazil) traveled to China recently to strengthen the ties between them. Russia and China even appear to take over the US role as global peacemaker. In April, Syria, Turkey and Iran met in Moscow to broker a rapprochement in Syria, while China mediated an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to stabilize their conflict. China is also playing a role seemingly in ending the war in Yemen. These examples show that more countries choose not to pick sides, which also means the US will face more difficulty to secure support in its conflicts with China and Russia.
During his visit to China in April 2023, French President Macron underscored the need for Europe to reduce its reliance on the US and prioritize the development of European defense industries. In addition, EDF and Airbus – two major French companies – signed deals in China, underscoring the increasing cooperation between the two countries. Afterwards, several American politicians, including Senator Marco Rubio, expressed their frustration with Macron growing closer to China. This is an indication of the growing divide between the US and the EU. Another divisive issue is competition, with the EU fearing that the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will result in unfair competition, while the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (the European counter to the IRA) has angered the US. Tensions are also rising within the EU. Poland, arguably the biggest European military partner of the US, publicly criticized Germany for not doing enough to support Ukraine. Not only is the world growing less western; even the West is becoming less western.